- Grade Level Band
- Estimated Lesson Time
- From Theory to Practice
- What Students Will Learn
- Instructional Plan
- Instruction and Activities
- Student Assessment and Reflections
Want to provoke more revision in your student writing? Need a way to integrate more technology into your classroom but find yourself in a technology-challenged district? Would you just like to learn something useful? Step right in to Microsoft Word, arguably the most used word processing program in American schools. In this TechKnowFile, Rebecca discusses ways of using facilities provided within Word, both low-tech and high-tech, to encourage student revision.
Grade Level Band
9-12. This feature can be used with modifications at any age group that can write. Elementary grade levels may need to focus on one element of the tool, whereas mid-level to adult will comprehend and apply features more readily.
Estimated Lesson Time
Depending on the grade level and technology abilities, this process could take anywhere from one 50-minute period to several days. Since I taught high school, all time distinctions will refer to an average 50-minute high school class.
From Theory to Practice
Perry, Debbie, and Mike Smithmier. "Peer Editing with Technology." English Journal July 2005: n.p.
Waskowitz, Bill. "In Praise of the Paperless Classroom." Independent School Fall 2001: 11. Academic Search Premier. EBSCOhost. Ellis Library, University of Missouri-Columbia, Columbia, MO. 1 Sept. 2007.
My study of Microsoft Word's Reviewing Tool began with an English Journal article written by Debbie Perry and Mike Smithmier in which the authors describe how Smithmier uses Word as an editing tool in his high school language arts classes at St. Pius X High School in Kansas City. Subsequently, I arranged to visit Smithmier and Perry, then media coordinator at St Pius, at their school, and developed a handout, Techknow Word Revision Tool, which I have used with in various versions with my students and to make workshop presentations with teachers. Waskowitz's article, "In Praise of the Paperless Classroom," promotes reasons for using this tool. Not only does it reduce the number of unnecessary copies—students shouldn't print anything until the final draft—but working exclusively on computer is beneficial to the student emotionally and mentally. He states of his students, "In an attempt to refine their own writings, students now see the act of revision as a simple process required to produce polished final drafts. These types of skills [...] bring a true sense of involvement and active learning into the hands of these seventh graders. They no longer see text as something that is alien and beyond their own control."
- Learn ways to use technology in a clear and applicable way.
- Make critical and substantive revision suggestions on their own and others’ writings, rather than editing or making surface corrections.
- Perceive revision as a beneficial exercise and a potentially fun practice.
This process will require the following resources:
- A piece of writing
- A computer with Microsoft Word
Other resources that may prove helpful:
- An email account for both the writer and the peer editor
- A jump/flash drive or some other portable storage device
- A color printer
- A smart board or some other projection device (this would aid in showing students at one time where specific icons/keys are found, rather than one-to-one instruction)
For the rest of this file, I will assume that all of the above are accessible. Obviously, if they are not, then alternate plans must be made.
Basically, the preparation for this is to make sure
• Students have a substantive piece of writing to revise
• The facilities (computer lab, classroom laptops & smart board) are functioning properly--one thing I learned to check every time was the bulb in the LCD projector
Instruction and Activities
Word processors all over the country are using different versions of MicroSoft Word. To simplify this TechKnowFile, I will refer solely to Word 2003. Earlier versions will not have the "bubbles" along the side and instead will post the comments in a separate box on the bottom of the screen. Word 2007 posts the Reviewing Tool on its own tab labeled "Reviewing." The basic format is the same for all versions.
On the first day use a sample writing piece (usually teacher-generated) as a practice piece. This can be done in a networked system by having the practice piece saved to the shared drive. In non-networked systems, the teacher can burn the sample to a CD or have it saved on a flash drive or email it to the students, whichever is the best method for that teacher. The directions posted here are worded as if a teacher is addressing students. At each step, check to make sure that students are progressing and on the correct step.
- Log in to your computer and bring up "Dierking_Sample" on the O Drive.
- In the light grey or blue area at the top of the screen (next to the pull down tabs of "file, edit, view, insert, format", etc.) right click your mouse. A tool box should appear. Toward the bottom (the listings in the tool box are in alphabetical order), click on the word "Reviewing." After doing so, a new set of icons should appear either directly under the tools at the top of the screen or in a separate box somewhere on the page.
- Within this new set of icons, make sure the pull down box says, "Final Showing Markup" not "Original", "Final", or "Original Showing Markup." Then, click the icon that looks like a page with a pencil hovering over it (when you move your mouse over it, a help box should say "Track Changes").
- Now, any time a change is made, it will appear on the screen as such:
A dotted line will appear under the space where the change occurred
A bubble indicating what change was made will pop up, linked by the dotted line, at the right of the page.
- Additionally, wherever suggestions/comments need to be made, highlight the space, click the comment icon (the yellow page laying on its side in the reviewing tool box), and a bubble will appear at the right margin of the document in which suggestions/comments/etc. can be directly stated.
- For the next twenty minutes [or more/less depending on how quickly the class catches on to the idea], spend some time using this new tool to revise the sample. Make sure you save it to your U Drive [the student's personal drive space on the server] and print a copy to turn in before you leave class.
- Tomorrow when you come to class you must have an electronic copy of your essay/poem/story/etc. available to share.
Day 2 is a repeat of the first day except with the student's piece of writing. Depending upon the length of the writing (for instance, a poem the class might spend a day or two revising, but a research paper they would reserve more time to revise) will influence how many days you should reserve for revision on the computer. ALWAYS reserve more days than you think you'll need in case of technical difficulties (our school's server was notorious for going down right before my classes went to the lab).
Day 3/Last day:
Discuss the process with students. After collecting their papers following a session when they used the reviewing tool, I usually tried to discuss with them what they thought of the process; what they learned about the tool, writing, themselves, or their peers; and how I could better show them how to use it. Most students are much more adept at technology than I am, so I acknowledge that expertise and, quite frankly, rely on them to help me teach and to improve my own skills.
- Ease Student Anxiety: Some students are intimidated at first by one-to-one conferences. To ease them into this idea, I've used the reviewing tool because most students are more readily accepting of technology and are more used to the "faceless" responders on blogs and other applications (like Facebook).
- Connect with Students Not in the Classroom: With the preponderance of reasons for students to be out of the classroom for extended periods of time (sickness, legal issues, pregnancy), the reviewing tool is a great way to keep students active in the classroom. They can email either the teacher or their peer response group members for revision suggestions. My department chair used the reviewing tool and email with a homebound student so that he could keep current during the research paper unit.
- Communicate with Clarity: Many times I verbally give students suggestions for creative pieces, and their interpretation of what I've said in no way matches the intended revision. With the editing tool, I can make the suggested changes (especially if it's a matter of formatting) or pinpoint exactly which sections they need to work on. This method is a great way to generate conversation and debate on how to manage text within space AND to spur risk taking with non-scholastic work.
- Edit Colleagues’ Letters: Coaches and sponsors of other activities are often the first adult students ask for recommendation letters. Just as often, these adults are the least comfortable writing such letters. I've used this tool to make suggestions to fellow teacher's letters--often because we are far from one another geographically within the building and because my handwriting is so poor.
- Discover Peer Expertise: After students receive feedback from peers, have them go through each comment/change and place it within a category (grammar, content, evidence, etc.). Once students do this process, have them look at who made which suggestions. Then, they can evaluate their own strengths and weaknesses as well as begin to see who within the class has certain revision “expertise”.
- Highlight Key Features: The bubble feature in later versions of Word is a great tool to use in pinpointing key features within a text. For instance, if I were leading a lesson on key elements of a paper and using King's "I Have a Dream" speech, I might employ the bubble feature to direct attention to his thesis/argument statement, the evidence he uses, the rhetorical devices he uses (repetition, imagery, etc.), and so on.
- Annotate Texts: With the rise of more electronic texts, students can copy and paste texts and then use this tool to make their own notations directly on the computer--thereby continuing Waskowitz's paperless classroom.
Generally, I grade this process the same way I graded more traditional manners of revision. For those who are technophobes, I usually tried to pair them with techies as a built in support system.